Reminiscences of Uncle Bob, Part One

In 2010 and 2017, I went to the Douglas County Historical Society (Nebraska) to search for records of the families of John and Josephine Bonewitz and Charles and Maggie Daily.  I found several birth and marriage records, but one record that was most important to me was not found, the birth record of my grandmother, Elizabeth (nee Daily) Bevers.  Of the seven children of Charles and Maggie, four births are recorded in Douglas County: Gladys, Oranna, an un-named baby boy and Lillian Iona.  Robert and Elizabeth’s records aren’t in the Douglas County birth register and their last child Joseph was born in Kansas. 

Nine months ago, a Daily descendant gave me an audio file which provides a clue as to why Elizabeth’s birth record can’t be found in the Douglas County birth register.  The audio file is a 100-minute recording of an interview given by Robert Lee Daily, Charles and Maggie’s son, when he was about 84 years old.  Robert relates, “… I was born in Omaha and only in Omaha for one year, and then we moved out on the farm, 13 miles out, … and lived out there seven years.  …we went out there and we stayed there ‘til 19-, well it’d ‘ve to been, ah, I think we left the farm in the spring of 1908, in January of 1908.”1  Elizabeth would have been born when the Daily family was living on a farm west of Omaha.

When the 1900 United States census was taken in Ward 7 on the west side of Omaha, Robert was three weeks old, having been born on May 10, 1900.2  The census, dated June 1, records that Charles and Maggie’s family was living at 1022 South 46th Avenue in a home that they owned, without a mortgage.  Charles was 43 years-old and working as a teamster (driving freight).  Maggie was 32 years-old.  They had been married eight years.  Their daughter Gladys was seven years-old and had attended school for 9 months, and their daughter Oranna was four years-old.

The census taker that visited the Dailys also visited a few of Maggie’s relations:

Maggie’s parents John and Josephine Bonewitz, along with their son Sidney and a cousin Sidney Smith and their nephew and niece Barry and Nellie May Howlara [sp. ?], lived one and a half blocks away from the Dailys.3

Harman Bonewitz (Maggie’s brother) with his wife Cornelia and son Rosco lived on the same street as the Dailys, two houses away.4

Judson and Anna Higley (Harman Bonewitz’ parents-in-law) lived one block away.5

John and Joannah Gantz (Maggie’s mother’s sister and her husband) with their children Anna, Adda and Harman lived about eight blocks away.6

The 1900 Omaha city directory has an entry for Charles in the classified business directory.  Under the heading “Feed, Hay and Grain. (Retail.),” the entry reads: “Dailey C. M. 3901 Leavenworth.”7  One of Charles’ business cards having this same address has survived and its image has been provided to me by one of Charles’ great grandsons.

A business card of Charles Monroe Daily, most likely dated about 1900.

In the interview that Robert gave, he related some information and a few stories about his family’s stint of farming west of Omaha: “… it was two different places.  … for one year, one place and then the rest of the time up ‘til I, uh, well, just before I was eight years old, see.”8  He stated that for a couple of years, one of Robert’s cousins, Bill Bailey, worked on the farm with them.9  Bill was the son of Charles’ sister Cynthia.  The Bailey family lived in Franklin Township, Floyd County, Indiana when the 1900 U. S. census was taken.10  At that time, Bill Bailey was 15 years old and he was not attending school.  It’s not known which years Bill worked at the Daily farm, but he would have been between 16 and 23 years-old.  One of Robert’s stories about the farm follows:

Interviewer:  How big a farm did you have?  You say, you went to the farm.

Uncle Bob:  Quarter, quarter section.  Well, since the second one.  We didn’t farm too much.  The first one was a quarter.

Interviewer:  Outside of Omaha.

Uncle Bob:  No, that was, oh, in Omaha, that was a quarter, yeah.  At the most it’d ha’ been a quarter.  Yeah, I can remember.  I can remember, like I said, uh, I went down, we went down after the cows.  Alfalfa is a very poisonous thing when the, when there’s dew on the ground.  And I know, going down to the pasture and o’ course that’s when I was pretty small.  We all went down there.  See, the bull had got over in the alfalfa field and a cow got over there and o’ course they were swelled up so big, from bloat.

Interviewer:  Um hmm, um hmm.

Uncle Bob:  And they were dead, at that time.  That’s one thing we had to fight so hard.  From that time on, since little, I knew alfalfa was dangerous, see.

Interviewer:  Um hmm, they overate.  Uh huh.

Uncle Bob:  They don’t eat very much.  If you fill a cow up, if it’d filled up first, then they can eat alfalfa on top of it.   But if they get nothing but alfalfa, it turns to gas and just, I lost cattle ….11

Robert identified the location of the farm: “…West Dodge, is what we called it.  It was out 13 miles.  That place used to be about, well I guess, pretty near right where the, ah, where the Flanigan’s Home is.”12  Flanagan’s Home was not in existence when the Dailys lived in that area.  It wasn’t until about 13 years after the Dailys left that farm that Father Flanagan acquired a farm for his ministry of caring for boys.

“In 1917, a young Irish priest named Father Edward J. Flanagan grew discouraged in his work with homeless men in Omaha, Nebraska.  In December of that year, he shifted his attention and borrowed $90 to pay the rent on a boarding house that became Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys.  Flanagan welcomed all boys, regardless of their race or religion.  By the next spring, 100 boys were living at the home.”

“In 1921, Father Flanagan purchased Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha and moved his Boys’ home there.  In time, the Home became known as the Village of Boys Town.  By the 1930s, hundreds of boys lived at the Village, which grew to include a school, dormitories and administration buildings.  The boys elected their own government, including a mayor, council and commissioners.  In 1936, the community became an official village in the state of Nebraska.”13

One of the stories that Robert tells is about how he lost his toddler curls:

Interviewer:  Oh, that’s right, you used to have lot of curls!

Uncle Bob:  Yeah, oh, curly head when I was, up until I was, I’d say somewhere around four years-old or older.  That’s when I got, just had to cut the hair off of it.  Dad had a bumble bees’ nest underneath the salt trough out in the yard, out in the barnyard.  And o’ course, Dad was gonna get, get those bumble bees.  Course, I had to be on the job to see it done. (chuckle)  And uh, he’d take a jug of water out there, you know, and set up a trough.  An’ bump the trough and ‘course when they’d come out, why they uh, buzz around that jug.  Course … like that when they could pass over that … edge, just one right after the other they’d go right down that jug, see.

Interviewer:  Ohhh!

Uncle Bob:  But I had to be so close that way an’ they’d come too close an’ I went to fight them.  And then they’d come on to me.

Interviewer:  Uh huh.

Uncle Bob:  An’ got tangled up in my hair an’ I got belted!

Interviewer:  And that’s when you decided the curls had to go.

Uncle Bob:  (chuckling)  Well, that’s when Mother decided.

Interviewer:  (Laughter)  Ahhh.

Uncle Bob:  You’ve probably seen my picture when I, when I was a girl, didn’t you?  When I had curls.

Interviewer:  Um hmm, um hmm.  Yes, I have seen pictures of that.

Uncle Bob:  That’s when I had, I had curls, that way, my head was full of curls.  Yep.14

Robert truly did have a head full of curls.  A portrait of Charles and Maggie’s children attests to this fact.  On June 10, 1903, the Daily children posed for the portrait.  This was about six months after Maggie had given birth to their third daughter, Iona, who was born on November 20, 1902.  The ages of the children are written on the back of the portrait.

Oranna (7 years, 2 months old), standing on left
Robert (3 years, 1 month old), sitting on left
Gladys (10 years, 8 months old), sitting on right and holding Iona (6 ½ months old)

In his interview, Robert mentions that there are two trunks that hold documents and mementos of the Daily family.  One of the trunks is in possession of one of Charles and Maggie’s grandsons. 

A trunk which holds many historical documents and mementos of Charles and Maggie Daily and their children.

One of the mementos in the trunk is Robert’s locks which Robert says were kept in a Cascarets box.15  Cascarets Candy Cathartic was created by the Sterling Remedy Company in 1894 and it included the ingredient cascara, a potent remedy prescribed, as early as 1877, for constipation and other intestinal illnesses.16  A Cascarets box was a rectangular tin box nearly the size of a pocket watch, so it fit easily in a vest pocket.  The box held six brown lozenges, which had a taste comparable to chocolate.

Cascarets advertisement from the Omaha Daily Bee, April 14, 190117

Another memento in the trunk is the wedding invitation of Maggie’s cousin Anna Belle Gantz (the daughter of Maggie’s aunt Joannah Gantz).  Anna Belle married Warren A. Rider, whose family lived in Fairfield, Iowa when Maggie’s family and her aunt Joannah’s family lived there in 1880.18  The marriage ceremony was on Thursday, September 8, 1904 at South West Methodist Episcopal Church in Omaha.  The church was only two blocks from the home of John and Joannah Gantz.

Two family events occurred in early 1905.  Maggie gave birth to their fourth daughter, Elizabeth, on February 26.  Within two weeks, Charles’ father Joseph S. Daily passed away, on March 4 in Fredericksburg, Indiana.  Joseph had commented to Charles about his poor health in letters written in the late 1890s.

Robert relates that when Elizabeth was one year old, Maggie became sick and was nursed back to health by her sister Emma (nee Bonewitz) Thompson:

Uncle Bob: … Y’ see, their mother Emma, she was a, she had to make the living all the time an’ she was a nurse.  Couldn’t take care of the family, like that.  She was the one that pulled Mother through when Elizabeth was a baby.  Mother had double pneumonia at that time, see.

Interviewer:  Ohh, uh huh.

Uncle Bob:  And Elizabeth was just a year old.  And uh, she pulled through the crisis …

Interviewer:  With the pneumonia.

Uncle Bob:  Course, Emma came to our place and stayed with Mother.

Interviewer:  Oh, uh huh.

Uncle Bob:  Stayed right with her all the time, ‘til she pulled her through.  That’s the reason Mother was always, had to be careful, ‘cause her lungs were a little weak.19

An additional item that is in the previously-mentioned trunk is a letter addressed to Mrs. C. M. Daily.  The envelope was postmarked August 13, 1907 in North Manchester, Indiana.  It cost two cents to mail and it was addressed to R #1 Box 71, Benson, Nebraska.  The Benson Post Office was about four miles to the northwest of downtown Omaha20 and it was about nine miles from the location that Robert identified as the location of the farm where the Dailys lived.

A letter addressed to Maggie postmarked August 13, 1907

In 1907 Benson was a small town which had begun to be developed 20 years earlier.  A streetcar line ran from the business district of Omaha to Benson.21

“Some people were in the town founding business just to make money.  One of the earliest in Omaha was Erastus Benson and his partner Clifton Mayne.  Together, they speculated by buying a chunk of land from one of the Creighton brothers, platting lots and opening businesses, and flipping their land for jacked up prices.  It worked!”

“Benson Place was a village founded in 1887 by a land speculator named Erastus A. Benson.  He was a banker and land speculator who ran a streetcar line all the way to his village northwest of Omaha.  Soon after renamed simply as Benson, the area grew in leaps and bounds after 1900 by attracting residents with good land values and exclusive properties.”22

The letter that Maggie received was from her paternal grandfather’s second wife, Amelia Mary Bonewitz.  Maggie’s paternal grandfather was John Adam Bonewitz.  His first wife Mary Margaret Rider died in 1859, eight years before Maggie was born.  A year later, John married a widow named Amelia Mary (nee Hower) Noftzger.  At the time of writing the letter to Maggie, Amelia was about ninety years old and she was suffering from dropsy which refers to “swelling caused by fluid retention” (now called edema) and it usually occurs in the feet, ankles and legs.23  The text of Amelia’s letter follows:

1

North Manchester August 13th 1907

My dear faraway Granddaughter

I will try to pencil a few lines to you in my weakness not fit to write as I am very poorly havent been able to get out of my chair without help since February 8th had been very near deaths door sick all this year feeling a little relieved of a hard cough lasting several months my great trouble now is dropsy from that I find no relief an as have been trying for several weeks to sew a little to help time to pass more easily as I cant read as much as I would like on account of severe head trouble am on my sewing which is poorly done I made a little block for you

2

the centre pieces are of some you sent me some years ago the other pieces my Granddaughter sent from California if I had goods to fill the block then I would work the seams but will send it as it is hope it will reach you in due time but will need pressing on the wrong side as it may be pretty messy [?] my children are all in usual health as far as I know would write more but dea child I am in so much pain I must stop had a hard night of suffering I often do havent heard from any of your folks since the wedding time fear they are ill some of them

3

please excuse this scribbled rambling letter now may God bless you and all yours is the prayer of your

Grandmother

                A M Bonewitz

P S I mad the block week before last waited to feel better before writing but am worse so will do this before I go away which may be any day now with much love I will say good bye for the present   A M B

Uncle Bob’s reminiscences to be continued in part two.

Notes:

  1. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview by R. Thiele, recording (ca. 1984): 4.
  2. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DHWQ-CT6?cc=1325221&wc=9B7F-6T5%3A1030896901%2C1030788401%2C1031517601 : 5 August 2014), Nebraska > Douglas > ED 75 Precinct 3 Omaha city Ward 7 > image 17 of 37; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  3. “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch, Nebraska > Douglas > ED 75 Precinct 3 Omaha city Ward 7 > image 16 of 37.
  4. “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch, Nebraska > Douglas > ED 75 Precinct 3 Omaha city Ward 7 > image 17 of 37.
  5. “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch, Nebraska > Douglas > ED 75 Precinct 3 Omaha city Ward 7 > image 17-18 of 37.
  6. “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch, Nebraska > Douglas > ED 75 Precinct 3 Omaha city Ward 7 > image 25 of 37.
  7. McAvoy’s Omaha City Directory for 1900 (Omaha, Nebraska: Omaha Directory Company, 1900): 867.
  8. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 4.
  9. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 12.
  10. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6WNQ-44?cc=1325221&wc=9BWQ-ZJ8%3A1030552501%2C1031971001%2C1032575501 : 5 August 2014), Indiana > Floyd > ED 52 Franklin Township > image 5 of 15; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  11. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 22.
  12. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 11-12.
  13. “Boys Town History,” https://www.boystown.org/about/our-history/Pages/default.aspx.
  14. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 12.
  15. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 12.
  16. Samira Kawash, “Cascarets Candy Cathartic,” March 15, 2010, https://candyprofessor.com/2010/03/15/cascarets-candy-cathartic/.
  17. Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska, April 14, 1901): 7, https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn99021999/1901-04-14/ed-1/seq-7/.
  18. “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYV-9GKJ?cc=1417683&wc=XHBX-4WL%3A1589394762%2C1589396075%2C1589395491%2C1589396321 : 24 December 2015), Iowa > Jefferson > Fairfield > ED 80 > image 16 of 23; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d.)
  19. M.R. Wilson, transcription of Robert Lee Daily Interview: 17.
  20. 1892 Omaha City Directory: front map.
  21. 1892 Omaha City Directory: front map.
  22. Adam F. C. Fletcher, https://northomahahistory.com/2017/03/30/the-lost-towns-in-north-omaha/.
  23. David Heitz, What You Should Know About Edema (Healthline Media, September 19, 2019): https://www.healthline.com/health/edema.

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